Five arrested over hoax UK Gov websites

E-commerce

by Joe Curtis| 07 July 2014

Crackdown launched after 5,700 complaints made over scam sites.

Five people have been arrested over copycat government websites running passport and tax return scams.

The sites sparked 5,700 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority and Citizens Advice, after internet users were duped into parting with their cash for services usually free on official Government sites.

The fraudulent websites feature URLs close to the official 'gov.uk' suffix, such as 'govuk' or 'directgov', and aim to cheat people of their money by charging them fees for driving licence and passport applications as well as tax returns.

Those arrested last week have now been released on bail, according to the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB), and the Government has launched a national awareness campaign to show people how to spot the fake websites.

Lord Toby Harris, chair of the NTSB, said: "Our eCrime team is clamping down on the cyber fraudsters behind these websites and we are making it as difficult as possible for these online hoaxers to operate.

"We have been working with search engines such as Google and Bing to remove adverts from online search results and we continue to gather intelligence across the country to help tackle this issue.

"We urge you to avoid unofficial websites which could leave you out-of-pocket or at risk of identity theft. Only use the GOV.UK website to find government services. If you come across copycat websites, report them to Citizens Advice."

Jo Swinson, Minister for Consumer Affairs, added: "The enforcement action which the National Trading Standards eCrime team has taken demonstrates the Government's commitment to tackling these scammers. We will not let them get away with misleading consumers."

The Government's site for job seekers was revealed to be plagued by fake adverts seeking to scam users earlier this year.

Picture: NTSB fake website awareness campaign image

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